How I Plan to Fund Startup Sioux Falls Through Community Patronage


(Watch this Video on YouTube)

One of the most difficult components of running a non-profit organization is finding funding. You’ve got a great mission that you believe in. You’re incredibly passionate about the work your non-profit is doing and you genuinely think you can make a dent in the issue that your non-profit is working to tackle. But, how do you fund it? Do you hit up the reliable base of donors that fund many non-profits in Sioux Falls? Do you look for corporate sponsors to underwrite your efforts? Do you apply for government grant money? Or, do you try to run a crowdfunding campaign?

What it Costs to Run Startup Sioux Falls

There are a lot of different ways to fund a non-profit organization, but when it came time to find a financial model for Startup Sioux Falls, I wanted to do something a little different. It currently costs between $1,000 and $2,000 per month to cover the costs of running Startup Sioux Falls. We pay everyone that we work with and we pay them well. I don’t ask for freebies or trades from service providers and pay everyone a market rate for their work.  There are a handful of contractors that do work for Startup Sioux Falls. Andrea Van Essen is a freelance writer that does interviews for our website. Becky Squyer does the Startup Sioux Falls newsletter and keeps our events calendar up-to-date. Josh Sopko does the Startup Sioux Falls podcast. Clint Brown also does a Startup Sioux Falls interview show, but he funds that through podcast sponsorships. Maureen Ohm takes the lead on organizing our in-person events. Startup Sioux Falls is no one’s full-time job right now, but several people contribute to it and they are paid for their efforts.

For the last 6 months, I’ve been funding Startup Sioux Falls out of my own pocket. I do pretty well in my business and it hasn’t been a big deal to pay Andrea, Becky, Josh, and Maureen using some of the profit from my business. Ultimately, I decided it was time to look for an independent funding source for Startup Sioux Falls because that’s what’s best for the organization long-term and it gives me an opportunity to teach others how to creatively fund a non-profit. It’s never healthy to have a community-minded organization funded by a single individual because if that person falls over dead or simply changes their mind, you’re back at square one for fundraising. Startup Sioux Falls is currently operating as a division of MarketBeat, but it will eventually be a standalone non-profit organization or be a successor organization to the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship. I figured if the organization is going to need an independent funding source at some point, it was probably better to start earlier than later.

Funding Startup Sioux Falls through Patronage

Startup Sioux Falls has always been an organization that exists for the benefit of the community of small business owners, startup founders, and entrepreneurs in Sioux Falls. I think it would be great if Startup Sioux Falls is also an organization that is funded by the small business community in Sioux Falls. If Startup Sioux Falls can get a few hundred small business owners to contribute $10 or $20 a month, that becomes a pretty resilient funding source. So, I’ve set up an account for Startup Sioux Falls on Patreon, a platform that allows writers, musicians, artists, podcasters and other creators to raise money from their community of fans. The idea is that anyone can contribute as little as $1.00 a month to a creator to help support their work through a simple and secure platform. Creators can also offer incentives to people that contribute a larger dollar amount per month, such as merchandise, early access to content, content that is exclusive to patrons, in-person events, etc.

I chose Patreon over platforms because of the transparency that it offers to both creators and their patrons. You know exactly how much money the creator is getting from their Patreon supporters every month and you know exactly what you are going to get for your contribution. Patreon also makes it easy for people to make small recurring donations to creators and just streamlines a lot of things that would normally require invoices, gift agreements, and paper checks.

For Startup Sioux Falls, I’ve set up kind of a three-tiered system so that everyone that benefits from Startup Sioux Falls can contribute something, even if it’s as little as $1.00 per month. For normal people just getting their businesses off the ground, they can contribute $1.00 or $5.00 per month. For people that have done well in their businesses, they can contribute $20.00 to $50.00 per month and get some free merchandise and first dibs on event sign-ups. For companies that are looking for exposure to the Startup Sioux Falls audience, there are $150.00 and $300.00 per month contribution options that will give them significant exposure to our audience through our Facebook group, our website, our email newsletter and our podcast. I’m not asking everyone for a big check every month or every year to cover the cost of Startup Sioux Falls, but I am asking everyone to do something. Even if you can only do $1.00 per month or $5.00 per month, I would love for you to become a patron of Startup Sioux Falls.

My goal for 2019 is to get Startup Sioux Falls’ Patreon account up to $1,500 per month to cover the costs of running the organization. Over the long term, I hope to grow the resources that come in from Patreon so that we can create more content, do more in-person events and find new ways to help people launch small businesses and startups. Eventually, Startup Sioux Falls could be a standalone organization that is funded entirely through community patronage. I truly believe that entrepreneurship is the best way to achieve financial prosperity, gain more personal freedom and fund charitable efforts around the globe. And, if I can persuade a few dozen or a few hundred people to launch businesses in our community that creates jobs, generate profit and foster charitable giving, I think I’ll have done some good in the world.

The Ask

It would be amazing of the citizens of our community got together and decided that encouraging small business and startup creation is something that’s important to our city and collectively funded an organization that does just that. We have that opportunity today through Startup Sioux falls. So, here’s the ask. Would you consider becoming a financial supporter of Startup Sioux Falls through Patreon? I’m not especially concerned with how much you contribute to Startup Sioux Falls on a monthly basis, just do what’s right for your budget. If you are willing to contribute, head on over to patreon.com/startupsiouxfalls and set up your account. It takes less than five minutes and your contribution will make a lasting positive impact on our community.

Click Here to Support Startup Sioux Falls through Patreon

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